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Assessment of the impact of training in cooperative learning in ITE (Initial Teacher Education)

McAlister, Clare (2011) Assessment of the impact of training in cooperative learning in ITE (Initial Teacher Education). In: European Conference on Educational Research Conference 2011, 2011-09-13 - 2011-09-16. (Unpublished)

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Research in the USA and Canada into training student teachers in cooperative learning in their year of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) has shown the need for a systematic approach (Cohen et al, 2004) throughout initial training and school experience. Webb (1982) argues that an important factor in how effective cooperative learning can be is due to the skill of teachers in delivering this and therefore training must be thorough. Cooperative learning is a pedagogy where participants work together to reach a goal sharing their learning and developing social skills. It is used to enhance learning in a variety of countries in Europe and in the United States. Scotland has seen an increase in the number of teachers engaging with this pedagogy as more active learning practices are required through the implementation of the new curriculum in Scotland, Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Government, 2008). Active learning practices have not been dominant in the Scottish education system and as a result the new curriculum brings pedagogical challenges for some practitioners. During their year of ITE students benefit from experiencing a variety of learning and teaching approaches and schools support this. If practicing teachers are not yet confident in active learning however students could miss essential experiences unless they are trained in these through ITE.As a means of assisting students in the development of active learning practices the students on a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) course at the University were experientially trained in cooperative learning throughout their ITE year in their Pedagogy and Curriculum (P&C) module. This study explores whether the students had confidence in delivering cooperative learning strategies in the classroom as a result of this experiential training and questions the validity of modelling practice for students in ITE.Participants were trained in cooperative learning techniques in every session of their P&C module, including placemat, jigsaw and carousel techniques (Kagan & Kagan, 2009; Johnson et al, 1994). Supportive teams worked together to create resources. The aim was to develop skills in active learning that were inclusive and have been shown to be effective through research (Gillies, 2000; Johnson, 1993; Johnson, 1985; Kagan & Kagan, 2009 and Slavin, 1984). The findings show that many students felt confident and supported in delivering active learning and regarded their training as a bonus during ITE. Analysis of post training impact has shown that a number of students had maintained their engagement with cooperative learning even when this was not the practice in their schools. Students stated that their confidence came from having been engaged in cooperative learning in their P&C activities.The study also explores the response of the schools in which the students were placed during teaching placement in relation to the students’ abilities to engage with active learning.